Investing in Co-Selling Partnerships to Grow

iStock_000022899520_ExtraSmallSmall businesses and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit by selecting co-selling partners to drive revenues. Utilizing another company’s sales and marketing resources may be a great channel to aggressively extend reach and acquire new customers.

Co-selling partnerships with businesses selling complimentary products and services to your target customer can be smart business. These partnerships can cut existing sales costs and even accelerate growth in market share. The best sales partners create a synergy between respective offerings. There should be a “natural fit” of how the products and services add value for the customer. The buyer should inherently understand why you would partner, not question as to why you did or if there is any benefit in buying from a single vendor.

Co-selling partnerships can reduce sales costs. There is a required investment in sales and marketing to grow a business. The costs of a sales team can be crippling for a new venture or small business.The overhead expenses that enable a sales person to be trained, productive, and armed with the right marketing tools, technology and product support can be onerous in the earlier stages of an organization.  Lack of initial investment often produces lack luster results and can actually cost the business even more with unexpected turnover or lengthy sales cycles. Businesses need a specific budget and defined cost of sales to properly staff, train and equip a sales organization to get results.

Time-to-market and time-to-close can be reduced through co-selling partnerships. A new sales hire ramp-up time can be 3-12 months, depending on price of goods to be sold and anticipated sales cycles. Ramp-up requires an “blind faith” investment of time and resources. A business has to invest in sales with nothing more than the anticipation and belief that something is going to be sold. It is a huge price to pay and has great risk. Utilizing a trained and experienced sales team through a co-selling partnership can help you bring revenues in while you invest in building your own sales team.

Co-selling is not free. There are costs of co-selling partnerships. A strong partnership requires investment in training and account management resources to keep top-of-mind awareness with your co-oped sales team. You also need to provide sales and marketing tools to properly equip the team to sell your goods and services. You need to be available when they have questions and to support them throughout the entire sales process.

You also need to create an incentive as to why a sales person in another organization should throw your offering into the mix. Higher commissions, faster time-to-close and value-add to the customer, are all good reasons; however, remember — sales people need to be sold too. If you extend the deal time or complicate the sales process, it will never work. Make it easy and valuable for the sales team through your co-selling partnership.

Incentives matter in co-selling. If the paired companies benefit but not the people selling, the partnership will fail. You need to set up a partner agreement for commissions and shared revenues.  A typical commission in a co-selling relationship starts at 10% of net revenue on the deal for a qualified lead pass. This type of agreement puts the burden back on you to close the deal. You are basically paying for marketing and an introduction. If the partner does all the work, including closing the deal, you may provide an incentive of 20% or more just to get that customer on your books. The structure of the agreement and commission rates should be based on your financial projections and cost of goods and associated expenses in managing the customer post-sale.

What doesn’t work? Relying on commission-only sales teams and partnerships that are by name only. There are business owners that believe they can get a motivated, committed sales person to work for free. The odds of making this type of relationship work are close to nil. The relationship between a company and it’s sales team, whether a direct hire or partner, is measured by the commitment from both sides. Small businesses may have to tier commission levels based on the ramp-up of sales or find ways to create early non-cash incentives; however, no one should be expected to go out and sell without a financial commitment. The words “you get what you pay for” should ring loudly if you are thinking about commission-only or finding people to sell for you because they like you.  Sales people that are really good at closing deals are expensive because they have a huge ROI.

Attributes of great co-selling partners to consider are the size of the partner’s sales team, market reach, relationships with your customer and available support the sales team receives in training for new products. The partner must have the means, connections and existing relationships to introduce your products to market. Co-selling means they will take an active role in selling. Again, partners by name only often produce little value.

If you choose to use co-selling partnerships, embrace the model and build support for the partnership. Show your loyalty through your commitment to make the partnership last and benefit everyone including the customer, the sales person and the partners. Create value by talking about the partnership and promoting the relationship. The results you get from this co-selling will be directly tied to the amount of time and resources invested in the partnership. You have to give to make it work and really pay off.

In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Related to a series of posts on partnering.  Also read: Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Racing to Close the Sale

iStock_000003423890MediumThe sales process provides a road map to follow when you are driving toward winning new business. The course begins with identifying a prospect and traverses through a series of events to the finish line. The intended destination on the map is the “close”. The place where you complete the sale, where you can declare you have won the race!

All sales people desire the race to be short from start to finish. Sales people hope to navigate around a few laps versus taking a long and winding road trip with many starts and stops. Experienced sales people have the endurance for the longer trek; where as, new sales people often lack patience and the will to stay seated for the extensive ride.

Most “starts” in the race never make it to the finish line. They breakdown somewhere in the process. The early racers may believe they are driving a qualified opportunity, yet fail to make the needs analysis turn or drive off the road at negotiation. By laws of averages and experience, more than 90% of opportunities that start will fail to get all the way to close. No matter the product or service, for every 10 qualified starts only one winner will result.  In other words, nine out of 10 deals will never make it to the close.

Winning or losing creates great anxiety in sales. The race to closing is arduous. Gripping the wheel, staying on course, focusing ahead requires concentration, skill and patience. The better drivers know they need to use their road map and not veer off course. The effort to get to the finish line can be months and even years with large deals. The pressure to close can drive sales people to make some simple driving mistakes.They take shortcuts to get to the finish line, avoiding key road signs that tell you whether you are approaching the finish or have miles and miles to go. Worst, they give up and quit the race.

One of the best indications for assessing how close you are to the finish line is to ask for agreement at every turn. “Are we there yet?”  It is true, the repetitive process of asking “are we there” can get annoying for some; however, you need to identify your road markers.  You need to know how close you are to the end of the race. The only way to know is to ask if you and your prospect are in agreement. You don’t want to end up at the finish line and find out your paying passenger jumped out long ago.

Every turn you make in the sales process requires a pit stop. Stop. Check to make sure the prospect is still engaged, agreeing to the journey and willing to go the distance.  If you fail to engage at the check points, you will mostly run out of gas and never see the checkered flag. You successfully end the race when you cross the finish line with your new customer seated next to you and you both are headed to the winners circle.

“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

iStock_000014805390_ExtraSmallCall reluctance is experienced by all business professionals, no matter their role.  Executives returning messages from upset customers, accounting personnel calling on past due notices and technology team members shopping for service providers.  Imagine if your entire day’s success was measured by the number of calls you made to convince strangers to buy your goods and services.

No. Not right now. No, thanks. Not interested. Maybe. Not in our budget. Hang up. Send me information. Yes.  That is the typical day of a sales person who is building their pipeline, repeated over and over again.  And we wonder why it is hard to find and retain great sales people. There are not many of us who would put at the top of our career ambitions to be rejected several times a day.

Cold calling is rarely listed as a favorite work activity; however, for millions it is what pays the bills. Selling is fundamental to our economy. There is no business until something is sold. Embracing the fact we all need to make cold calls, how can we take the chill out of one of the most important activities in business?  Here are a few tips to prepare for a day of cold calling:

1.  Know your target market. Every buyer is unique; however, they will have similar demographics, sociographics and psychographics. Spend time understanding the common data characteristics, along with behaviors and motivators.  For example, if you are targeting a small business owner, know what drives them to change.  What fears do they face in making buying decisions? What would benefit them the most personally and professionally when they say yes?  The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to make a “warm call” into a known, targeted buyer.

2.  Feel the buyer’s pain. There is a natural tendency for inexperienced cold callers to talk about their reason for calling more than finding out why the buyer would benefit from their products or services.  Stop. Listen. If you are doing the most of the talking, you are losing.  You will never hear the buying signals when you are spewing facts, features, and generic benefits.  The best technique is to understand and relate to your buyer so they have confidence you are doing what is best for them, not you.

3.  Quantity matters. It is far easier to deal with rejection if you can get a “win” during your calling spree.  Plan with enough time in a single day to make calls in blocks of several hours. One, right after the other. Hang up, dial the next.  If you stagger your calls throughout the day or over longer periods, you are simply prolonging the pain. Dial until you get to yes and then dial more. Target how many yes calls you need in a day to hit your weekly and monthly goal.

4.  Needs analysis pays off.  Do your research on your buyer. You will be expected to speak to their individual business needs. There is no excuse to cold call blindly. “Google them”. It takes seconds now to find valuable data online about buyers.  You have access to profiles in LinkedIn, you have company websites with executive profiles, products and company information, public reports and news. Do your homework.

5.  Call with intent. What is your goal in cold calling?  What qualifies as a “yes”?  As with any business function, have a goal and objective with every call. The only way to get to the yes is to ask – ask for the sale. Get agreement along the way of your presentation and make sure you are aligned in your mutual objectives. You are solving a problem for the buyer. Countless deals are lost because people think making the call is the goal. That is not the win. The win is getting the deal.  Ask for their business.  It only counts when they say yes. When they say no, ask again.

A sales person has to remain calm in the chaos of measurable rejection. They have to keep their eye on the “prize”.  One more call to a yes.  One more opportunity to use their real skills and talents of negotiation and the power of persuasion to fulfill a need.

Respect and reward those that you depend on to make the calls to grow your business.  If you are the cold caller, prepare to win.  Know your target, be diligent in your process and never forget to ask.  It is the glimpse of hope, the possibility of acceptance and the incredible satisfaction of closing a deal that keeps a cold caller motivated. Commissions aside, most sales people will say they get the greatest reward from winning.  Winning when a customer says yes!

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar


Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Additional Sales Related Posts by Artful Thinkers

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/prepare-to-hire-a-sales-person

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/questions-sales-candidates-ask-that-should-stop-the-interview

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/a-bad-sales-hire-can-crush-a-small-business

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/5-essential-topics-for-a-winning-sales-proposal

 

 

Ready to Engage Your New Customer?

The buzz in marketing circles today is engagement. How do you effectively hook potential customers into a committed relationship? The investment a business makes in the engagement process should be directly tied to revenues. If you expertly and skillfully engage, sales will increase.

Competent engagement helps a business target, influence, nurture and convert prospects to customers.  The more expeditious a business is in engaging with prospects, the bigger impact to the bottom-line.  How are you engaging your potential new customers?

The easiest way to initiate engagement is to view customer and wedding engagements as the same.  The difference between the two are in the details of tactics.  How you move from targeting into proposal are nearly identical in overall strategy.

Engagement begins by determining how to get someone to respond to your offer.  First, identify the target based on the qualifications of a “good match”.  Who is a suitable candidate for engagement?  What are the qualities you are seeking, both in demographics and social behaviors? Then you need to determine what makes you attractive to others.  Packaging and presentation of your “stand out” qualities are critical in the initial step of the engagement process.  Know where to direct your message and selling to the most qualified targets.

Second, you start the courting process, where all long-term valuable relationships begin. This step is more difficult to measure and needs careful preparation. You can spend a tremendous amount of resources influencing others and never get to the proposal. Laws of attraction and suitability apply.  Who you target, what you say and why they are a good candidate must already be known to successfully influence the “right” prospect.

Using engagement tactics like research, focus groups, asking for referrals can speed progress directly influencing better qualified prospects when cultivating relationships. Put out a few “asks”.  Look for agreement.  Identify the buying signals.  Know what makes this prospect want to engage further in the relationship.  Define what is in it for them. It might take some sampling and analysis to reach a successful outcome.

Third, define acceptable terms of the relationship.  Nurture your relationship to fully understand the “how and why” you need to partner.  Build upon the strengths of your bond through mutual consent. Constant communication, validation and envisioning the success of your relationship solidifies the “why”.  This is the beginning of a potentially long-term committed relationship, one that must be mutually beneficial.   Are you both in agreement? Create timelines and set expectations to help control spending, time and resources while nurturing your relationship.

Fourth, make the BIG proposal.  It is time to go all in and ask for the close.  Whether it be a hand in marriage or to partner in business, the only way to get to a “yes” is to make the proposal.  If you have taken time to go through an engagement process, building consensus along the way, you will have eliminated most of the risk in making the proposal.  Converting a prospect to a buyer requires you to “pop” the question.  It is time to seal the deal.

The opportunity to engage is there, are you ready to start the process?  Only if you are able to commit to an engagement, will you be ready to “tie the knot” with a new customer.

[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

5 Essential Topics for a Winning Sales Proposal

Selection of Offerings

A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem.  Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.

Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now.  I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution.  It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.

Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client.  Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!

Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:

1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
3. Recommendation
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps

The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client.  Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client.  Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect.  Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.

Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal.  If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation.  If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation.  It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.

Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect.  Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products.  Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.

Warning!  Do not use the needs analysis section to sell.  It is a series of facts of why they need your help.  Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.

The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering.  Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.

Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis.  This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving!  It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation.  Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best.  Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.

Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision.  Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.

Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL.  Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem.  If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer.  You will likely fail.

Now on to Pricing and Terms.  This should be one page (one slide).  Outline your pricing based on your recommendation.  If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation.  Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress.  Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you.  Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!

The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps.  Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work.  Be succinct and use action words.  The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.

The Customer Bites on Your Proposal

Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite.  Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling.  When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver.  People like people who help them!